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Women Becoming Primary Breadwinners

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

March 20, 2009

As more men are being laid off from their jobs, women are stepping up to become the main wage-earners in families.

USA Today reports that the economic downturn is shuffling the traditional family dynamic, with more women taking on full-time work and more men staying home to help out with household responsibilities. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that women make up 46 percent of the labor pool, that figure is likely to change, since about 82 percent of the 2.5 million jobs lost since November were held by men.

"How interesting that four months of a terrible economy could in a way prove to have more impact than four decades of feminism," said Amy Keroes, founder of mommytrackd.com, a networking site for working mothers, who was quoted in USA Today.

"The women on the site who are primary breadwinners say they're proud to be that, but at the same time there's also a longing to be home," she noted. "The economy has simply taken choices away from people."

The Wall Street Journal reports on a related phenomenon: new mothers being forced to cut their maternity leaves short after their spouses' jobs can no longer support their families.

Dawn Zelanko, from Encino, California, had planned to stay home for a year after her daughter was born. But when her husband's work dried up, she instead returned to work as a receptionist after 14 weeks. The first time her daughter said "mama," Zelanko was at work.

"I was devastated that I missed it," she said.

Allison O'Kelly, chief executive of Mom Corps, a staffing company geared towards mothers looking for flexible work arrangements, noted an increase in the number of hours members were looking to work. In the past, a typical work request was between 20 to 25 hours a week, while now most applicants aim for 30 to 40 hours weekly. Moreover, the site's traffic has increased 79 percent since last year, and the company's resume-writing service is twice as busy.

Many women are realizing that part-time, flexible schedules are no longer adequate for their family budgets. Min Co, a software engineer in Jersey City, New Jersey, managed to work out a part-time schedule after she gave birth to her daughter. When her husband's job in a New York financial firm became precarious in February, she requested full-time work.

But all of the women interviewed focused on uncomplainingly dealing with the situation.

"Times are a-changing, and you got to roll with the times," said Christina Fekas-Gorman of San Diego, who was quoted in USA Today. Her husband was laid off a year ago, and she works as a secretary.

Zelanko echoed the same feeling. "Right now, for my family," she told The Times, "this is what I need to do."

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